Discover the hidden goldmine of self-improvement

by | October 8, 2012

Goldmines in business are discovered by entrepreneurs who listen to complaints.

For those who tap those complaint veins, by building businesses that solve problems, the payoff can be spectacular.

Likewise, we can discover the most lucrative goldmine in ourselves and tap the vein of our awesome personal power by paying attention to criticism.

But where marketplace complaints reveal goldmines, the criticism I speak of is designed specifically to hide our goldmine of self-improvement.

For those with the courage and honesty to dig through deep layers of self-deception, the payoff is spectacular.

Want to strike gold and become rich in ability, character, credibility, leadership, and impact? Absorb, accept, and apply this uncomfortable, yet astoundingly empowering truth: Our greatest source of self-improvement is found in our criticisms of others.

Jungian psychology teacher Edward Whitmont explains,

“Ask someone to give a description of the personality type which he finds most despicable, most unbearable and hateful, and most impossible to get along with, and he will produce a description of his own repressed characteristics…These very qualities are so unacceptable to him precisely because they represent his own repressed side; only that which we cannot accept within ourselves do we find impossible to live with in others.”

Criticism reveals more about the criticizer than the target. We tell ourselves stories about other people to hide our most uncomfortable secrets from ourselves. As religious leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf says,

“We often justify our anger and satisfy our consciences by telling ourselves stories about the motives of others that condemn their actions as unforgivable and egoistic while, at the same time, lifting our own motives as pure and innocent.”

The more we criticize others, the more work we have to do on ourselves. To paraphrase Christ, the beams dragging us down are revealed as we pick at the slivers in the lives of others.

The beams of our weaknesses provide the raw elements for building a life worth emulating — if we recognize them by being honest with ourselves.

But as we focus on our weaknesses, let us not forget that the purpose is not to tear ourselves down, but to build ourselves up. As Abraham Lincoln taught, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”

Those who criticize the most are building the least. Criticism is a luxury reserved for those unwilling to do anything worth criticizing. As Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed,

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

As we throw ourselves into a worthy cause, our weaknesses are quickly revealed. As we keep striving valiantly, we eventually overcome our weaknesses.

Every time we criticize others, our internal self-improvement detector screams that we’ve struck gold. But we can’t hear it if we’re not honest with ourselves.

We can spend our lives either combing through the trash heap of others’ weaknesses, or cashing in on the goldmine of self-improvement.

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